The magician twisted and turned the balloons, his lively patter eliciting giggles from the crowd of children. There! He presented his masterpiece with a flourish a sausage dog, a wiener dog with short legs and uncharacteristic face that kids nonetheless recognize as a Dachshund.
The long-bodied, short-legged Dachshund in smooth coat is a favorite of cartoonists, child artists, and toy-dog makers, probably because it is distinctive in appearance and yet exaggerated just enough to provoke a chuckle or a hug. But those who laugh at the humorous appearance of the Dachshund probably know little about this wonderful canine bred to hunt badger and now well-adapted to life as a people companion.
The Dachshund was fourth in individual registrations among the 148 breeds recognized by the American Kennel Club with 54,773 individuals in 2000, and second in litter registrations with 30,697. The breed comes in three varieties: smooth-coat, long-coat, and wire-haired, each with a slightly different personality, and in two sizes, standard and miniature. A member of the AKC hound group, the Dachsie is bold and independent in any size or coat.
The Dachshund (pronounced dacks-hoont, not dash-hound) probably developed in Germany from the St. Hubert Hound about 300 years ago, but similar dogs were depicted in Egyptian art work more than 1000 years ago. The breed name means badger hound, an apt description of the dogs original purpose. Dachshunds went to ground after the ferocious badger, a weasel cousin considered to be vermin, bravely drawing it from the den to face the hunters guns.
Because it was bred to follow quarry underground, the Dachshund is the only hound that is allowed to compete in AKC terrier go-to-ground events that test the ancient instinct of the breed in order to preserve its purpose. Queen City Dog Training Club in Cincinnati offers occasional go-to-ground classes and AKC sanctions trials and awards titles in the sport.
The smooth Dachshund probably was the original, with longhairs either a result of mutation and selective breeding or of crossbreeding, perhaps with a German spaniel. The wirehair is thought to be the result of crosses with smooth Dachshunds, Schnauzers, and Dandie Dinmont Terriers. The long-coats were thought unsuitable for go-to-ground work so were used as bird dogs. The wire-coats were well-protected against burrs and thorns in the field.
Although the three varieties share common temperaments, observers say their personalities differ somewhat. The smooths are inclined to attach themselves to a particular family member and to be somewhat aloof with strangers. The wirehairs are extroverts with a clownish sense of humor, and the longhairs manage to maintain their dignity while happily playing with anyone who can be enticed into a game.
The original Dachshund weighed about 30 pounds, a good size for confronting a 35-pound badger in its den. Smaller Dachshunds, weighing about 20 pounds, were bred to hunt foxes and trail larger game that had been wounded by the hunter, and still smaller ones were developed to draw rabbits from their warrens. Today the breed is divided into miniatures, which are 11 pounds or less at 12 months of age or older, and standards, which usually weigh 16-32 pounds.
Related to the Basset Hound through the St. Hubert Hound, the Dachshund form is tightly tied to its original function. A dog that followed its prey into a narrow tunnel in the ground needed special conformation to extricate itself from trouble. So, the Dachshund had a low-slung body with a chest that acts as a keel; the dog could rest on his chest and use his remarkable limber front legs to dig his way out of trouble. If all else failed, the hunter could reach into the hole and grab the Dachsie by its long tail and pull it to daylight.
Todays Dachshund is a pet, not a hunter, but still maintains the characteristics of independence, courage, hardiness, and combativeness that served so well as it challenged the fierce badger in its den. The other half of the Dachsie personality moderates its bold attitude with a loving demeanor, a heavy dose of charm, and a playful sense of humor.
The American Kennel Club Dachshund Standard describes the dog as low to the ground, long in body and short of leg with robust muscular development, hound ears, and pliable but unwrinkled skin, a dog with hunting spirit capable of working above or below ground. Throughout the standard, emphasis is on well-developed muscles, strength, and power, attributes that most people do not assign to the wiener dog. But look closely; the Dachsie may be comical of appearance, but he still should fit the bill as a hunter and not become an over-pampered, obese, waddling couch-potato, for such fate steals his dignity.
Although solid red and black and tan predominate in all three coat types, several other colors, including chocolate and tan, fawn, cream, and gray, are permissible in the breed as are single and double dapple and brindle patterns. Single dapples involve two colors, neither one predominating; double dapples add white patches to the mix. Dappled Dachshunds can have blue or partially blue eyes. Brindle is a striped pattern and can occur in solid color and two-color dogs.
The smooth Dachshund has a short, shiny coat and a tail that gradually tapers to a point. The wire-hair is double-coated with a uniform, tight, hard outer coat and a softer, shorter undercoat. The face is bearded and has bushy eyebrows; the tail tapers as in the smooth coated variety but is covered with thick hair. The longhair has a sleek, slightly wavy coat that is longer under the neck, on the forechest, the underside of the body, the ears, and the legs. The hair is longest on the magnificent tail.
The Dachshund is generally long-lived and healthy but is subject to some genetic diseases, including slipped disc syndrome. Some owners are apt to pamper their Dachshunds in the hopes of preventing slipped discs. However, rather than being a condition of long-backed, low-slung dogs, the syndrome is probably genetic and pampering has no effect on its expression. Boxers, Cocker Spaniels, Beagles, and Pekingese are also affected to some degree, while the Basset Hound, another low-slung dog springing from the same stock as the Dachshund, does not appear to be.
Eye abnormalities, urinary tract stones, and mammary gland cancers can be problems in the breed, and the dapple coat pattern (known as merle in other breeds) is connected with eye and hearing difficulties.
The Dachshund is a low-maintenance breed. The smooths need little grooming but may need a sweater for cold winter days. The longhair needs brushing to prevent mats from forming, especially at the elbows and around the ears. Care for the wirehair falls in between; hell not need a sweater but his coat does require some brushing, especially if it is soft. Mats and tangles must be eliminated from the coat before bathing.
Attention must be paid to the Dachshunds droopy ears, for they can hold the moisture that is a breeding ground for fungus, bacteria, and mites.
Like all dogs, the Dachshund must be trained to obey family members. Although a mature standard Dachshund weighs less than 30 pounds, the dog is all muscle and is clever enough to get away with much mischief if not taught some manners. Furthermore, the temperament that allows him to defy a badger can cause him to resist instructions through independence or guile unless he is fully aware that the humans are in charge in the household. Training should be done with firm, consistent guidance, not harsh correction.
The Dachshund Club of Southwestern Ohio is active throughout the area. The club hosts a specialty show in Cincinnati each September and offers breed information and rescue services at (513) 831-7899 and (513) 539-8133. Outside the area, the Dachshund Club of America can provide breed information and a list of club members who are breeders; secretary of the national club is Andra OConnell, 1793 Berme Road, Kerhonkson, NY 12446.
The AKC website (www.akc.org) includes a Dachsie
profile and club information
More information is available from The Dachshund Club of America, Inc.
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